Jeannie Chesser, long time Hawaii surfer and onetime surfing champion, is battling a rare form of cancer. A unique surf benefit is being organized for her by friend Mark Cunningham and other surfers. The benefit will be held Saturday, February 16, 2008 from noon until 6pm at the Waimea Valley Audubon Center (59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI). The benefit will feature a variety of surfboards surfed by professional surfers, boards donated by shops and shapers, surf art, jewelry, books, photos and other
surf related items. Organizer Mark Cunningham notes the goal is to “Assemble the greatest collection of contemporary pro surfboards, new and used, ever to be gathered in one place.” Funds raised from this benefit will go towards Jeannie’s medical bills and towards the Defend Oahu Coalition.Jeannie is a longtime supporter of the Coalition.
Professional surfers who have donated boards for this benefit include Kelly Slater (7 time world
champion), Andy Irons (3 time world champ), Joel Parkinson, Dave Rastovich, Occy, Taj Burrow,
Phil MacDonald, Cory Lopez, Brad Gerlach, Taylor Knox, Rob Machado, Dustin Barca, Ian Walsh,
the Malloy Brothers, Shane Dorian, Tom Whitaker, Jamie O’Brien, Rico Jimenez, Danny Fuller,
Dave Wassel, T.J. Barron, Joel Centio, Noah Johnson, Chava Greenlee, and Jason Shibata.
Jeannie was born in Miami, FL and moved to Hawaii in the 1970s. Jeannie won her first surf contest
in 1965 and was US Surfing Champ in 1992. She married David Chesser and had a son, Todd, who
followed his mother into the waves of Hawaii. Todd was the NSSA Surf Champion in 1985 and
enjoyed surfing large waves, including participating in the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. Sadly,
Todd was killed while surfing large waves in 1997.
Jeannie combined her love of the water with her work, and has become an accomplished painter.
She is known for her work on sur&oards, and on canvas. Her art will be included in the upcoming
auction. Jeannie is a frequent surfer in Hawaii waves and notes that Tavarua, a wave in Fiji, has
provided solace to her throughout her life. Jeannie describes her current work as: “Totally
therapeutic to work with beads, jewelry, and silver. That people like my stuff enough to buy it is
certainly a bonus. I know my art is not going to change the world… it’s not earth-shattering. But I
hope it cheers people up or just gives them something pleasant to look at. Todd’s mana (spirit) lives
on in me and my art.”
Event organizer Mark Cunningham is a world-renowned body surfer who has been a lifeguard in
Hawaii for many years. While enjoying retirement from life-guarding, Mark continues to surf and
organize for causes including Jeannie and the Defend Oahu Coalition. Mark is the 2007 Pipeline
Bodysurfing Champion, a past winner of the Mexico International Bodysurfing Competition and has
been featured in several surf films.
The Defend Oahu Coalition is a diverse group of community residents, environmentalists, activists
and religious leaders all working together towards one goal: protecting communities along the North
Shore from the dangerous effects of large scale development. Members of the coalition believe that
the beautiful North Shore is for all Oahu residents as well as visitors, and are committed to ensuring
that it will continue to be a resource for generations to come.
Photo: courtesy Sean Davey